This year, my vacation period was at the end of the year. Because i can’t stand the cold, i usually need to choose a holiday destination in a warm region. I chose the Middle East and South East Asia. The deciding factors for me were a friend in Singapore and the promise of a good massage in Malaysia.

My trip began with a couple of days in the UAE and a quick swing through Oman (and back to the UAE). First stop – Dubai.

Dubai is one of 7 emirates in the UAE. While Abu Dhabi is the capital and the richest emirate due to its vast reserves of oil, Dubai IS the tourism city. Dubai’s oil reserves are expected to run out in 10 years hence the diversification into tourism and real estate. Abu Dhabi has another 100 years.

Everything and i mean everything in Dubai is designed to make you spend money. The city is pretty well organised and ultra clean; new developments abound; there are signs indicating everything and the people are tourist friendly. English is also widely spoken. Customs was a breeze; was picked up by the tour operator – Arabian Adventures and given a welcome pack; money changers (Bureaux de Change) were a few minutes from my hotel and a well stocked mall with an ugly exterior but great variety (Burjuman Centre) . I wasn’t able to get a hang of the local transport system as the tour operator took me everywhere (or i walked), but taxis seem to be the best way to get around. The “car” of choice is Toyota or a bicycle. The tour operators are always on time. When they say 7.15pm, they are at your door by 7.05pm!

Smoking seems to be the “national past time” in Dubai and the weather was cooooooooold. In Dubai, it’s either very hot or cold (the 2 extremes of the desert), depending on the time of year you visit.

The best place to eat is the Bastak or Old Town by the creek. The creek separates the two sides of Dubai: the city and Deira. Bastakiah Nights restaurant is highly recommended or the Dhowa Floating Restaurants.

Dhowas are wooden ships that were used to transport goods once-upon-a-time. The Bastak has a good nightlife and many of the old buildings are made from Coral. Apparently the building technology was taught by the Iranians. The Museum is also at the Bastak. You can have drinks by the waterside at the Heritage or Diving Village or sit quietly by the Silk Plaza to gist. The food in Dubai is very similar to what you’ll find anywhere else in the wood. They have versions of savoury rice, meatballs, lasagna, stew, even something that tastes like tapioca pudding.

A very romantic thing to do would be to rent a ship for the night and have a romantic dinner for two while sailing, then fall asleep under the stars. The tour company can also organise a fireside dinner in the desert with traditional music and dancers. Dubai is ideally a city for romance and shopping NOT quiet contemplation. It’s too noisy. I fear it may become overcrowded like Singapore.

If you’re with a tour guide, the best tours to go for are the City Tour, Desert Safari and Burj Dubai tour. If you’re the shopping type, it may be best to stay near the Mercata Mall or the Wafi Shopping Centre by the Grand Hyatt and Citigroup. That way you can simply walk to the malls.

On an interesting note – there are no mosquitoes in Dubai. Water is more expensive than oil (it’s the desert!) hence no pools of water for them to breed. I also noticed that there were no condoms in the convenience stores in the more conservative emirates. And i saw an “ELEGANZA” apartments! It’s a 24hr city and well lit and like Abuja, Nigeria, there are hotels!hotels!hotels!

At the Airport enroute Singapore, i noticed my flight wasn’t called directly. Apparently it was a connecting flight to Australia?, so the airport staff kept announcing Australia NOT singapore. I made my flight though.

I’ve updated my photos on Facebook for my second trip in February, 2012. This time i did the Desert Safari which was just wonderful! You need to have a strong stomach for it though. It’s what i imagine a rollercoaster ride would be like! There are belly dancers and great food at the end of the safari.

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